Meta’s headset not only makes it possible to see augmented reality, but also interact with virtual objects, challenging Microsoft’s HoloLens
The augmented reality (AR) sector is not heating up — it has been boiling for a long time. After the huge financing round by Magic Leap, about the most secretive and intriguing startup around, it is now Israeli Meta’s turn.
Meta announced on Monday that it raised $50 million in a Series B funding round. Industry sources estimated that the current round values the company, after money, at $300 million.
Better viewing than Microsoft’s HoloLens
The headset developed by the company includes a pair of RGB tracking cameras and algorithms developed by Meta chief scientist Prof. Steve Mann, the wearable computing pioneer. Its headset is capable of detecting the user’s motions on nine movement axes. The display contains two QHD-quality screens and especially transparent and thin optics with a 90-degree field of view, giving the Meta Pro headset a substantially larger screen area than the Microsoft HoloLens.
In contrast to the usual practice in Internet of Things (IoT), the company is not settling for relatively weak processors. It uses very powerful processors, such as the Intel Core i5, with 4 GB of internal RAM memory and 128 GB of internal storage memory, 3D Dolby audio, Wi-Fi connectivity, and Bluetooth 4.0. The company now allows developers to buy the Meta 2 development kit for $950.
CEO Meron Gribetz founded Meta in 2012 in the framework of a Kickstarter project aimed at developing a wearable AR kit that would make it possible to display AR on a headset added as another layer for viewing the real world. The headset kit can interact with other kits, thereby allowing users to play with each other and move 3D objects with hand gestures and movements. For example, you will be able to play chess on a physical table, or place virtual objects in the real space in order to see their adaptation.
Investors in Meta include several recognizable names, such as retail giant Zappos, the prestigious Y Combinator, the Horizons Ventures fund (led by Chinese investor Li Ka-shing), and Moshe Hogeg’s VC fund Singulariteam, as well as private investors like Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, and Timothy Draper. Horizons led the current round, after also leading the company’s preceding round, which raised $23 million. Strategic investors took part in the current round as well, with impressive participation by Chinese investors, including Lenovo Group, Comcast Ventures, Tencent, and Chinese telecommunications and electronics company GQY.
Gribetz said in response to the financing round, “It makes me very glad to gain the support of visionaries and investors who realize the importance of creating a new science-based man-computer interface. Our friends in Comcast Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Lenovo, Tencent, and the other investors have a good grasp of what we’re doing, and why Meta differs from other players in the AR field. They understand the combination of our advanced optical engines with the interface based on the science of the brain, which jointly generate a computing experience 100 times easier to use and more powerful than the existing products.” According to the company, the money raised will be used to continue development of its hardware and software, develop apps for Meta’s ecosystem, and build the company’s next generation of headsets: the Meta 3.